Israel’s Cabinet on Sunday voted in favour of the controversial “Nationality Bill” which claims Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and cancels Arabic as a formal language.

The bill was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, but it still needs to pass three rounds of voting in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, to become law, Xinhua news agency reported.

The bill, considered by its opponent as discriminatory and racist, seeks revocation of Arabic’s “official language” status and to keep Hebrew as the only formal language in Israel.

It also claims Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people”, and holds that “the right to realise self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people”.

The bill was tabled by Avi Dichter, a lawmaker with the Likud ruling party and a former head of the Shin Bet security service.

“This is a basic law, which has the simple objective of safeguarding Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish People,” acting committee Chairman Yariv Levin said in a statement.

“I don’t understand why it hasn’t been made into law so far,” he added.

Arab and left-wing lawmakers oppose the bill, saying its approval would undermine the democratic character of Israel, where Arabs make up some 20 per cent of the population.

Issawi Farij, a lawmaker with the liberal party of Meretz, denounced the new legislation as a “Marine Le Pen-style law”. Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon warned that the bill would be a “declaration of war” against Israel’s Arab minority and would “enshrine in law racist and discriminatory practices”.

First Published | 7 May 2017 11:42 PM
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